Tabletop and board games are a uniquely polarizing beast, with a host of games inspiring a love-it-or-hate-it mentality in its players. Paizo’s Pathfinder is no exception. Its long list of products, huge setting, and sometimes-complex rules don’t help, and given its start as a derivation of the well known and well loved Dungeons & Dragons, it started with a stacked deck. But since the game’s inception, Paizo has carved out a sizeable niche for itself, taking Pathfinder from a “D&D spinoff” to an industry heavyweight in its own right.

Like its predecessor, Pathfinder is a pen-and-paper roleplaying game. The success of a character’s actions during the collaborative story is determined by rolling a 20-sided die and adding appropriate modifiers to meet or beat a target number, with other polyhedral dice used for secondary results, like damage or spell effects. Like other non-D&D games of the era, it adopted the term “gamemaster” for the player running the game from behind the screen, and a great deal of Pathfinder’s numerous books and supplements are designed with the gamemaster in mind, building elaborate worlds and madness-inducing monsters for the players’ characters to encounter.

Pathfinder builds on the typical character classes of classic D&D by retouching them, offering variant rulesets and bringing entirely new classes to the table. In later books, hybrid classes were added, such as the Skald (bard and barbarian) and the Warpriest (cleric and fighter), as well as completely original classes like the Oracle and Arcanist. Its only published game setting is a wizards-and-dragons high fantasy, though in August 2017 Paizo also released Starfinder, a space-faring revamp of the core game.

The game’s heart ultimately lies in a set of six books. The Core Rulebook, the Bestiary, the Advanced Player’s Guide (2010), which introduced new rules and character class Archetypes, to provide new flavor to the core classes; the Advanced Race Guide (2013), which added new races to the game; the Advanced Class Guide (2015), which provided 10 new classes, including the Brawler and the Slayer; and Pathfinder Unchained (2015), which added variant rulesets for gamemasters looking to customize gameplay at their tables.

Paizo also published a total of seven books of monsters and a number of supplemental books. Then, to collect the various options provided in the vast collection of Pathfinder’s supplement and setting sourcebooks.

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